As a demon under the Horseman of Famine, Beltine enjoyed helping his horseman take out a coven of witches. It was a wonderful change of pace—doing something other than spreading famine upon different areas of the human plane. When Famine teams up with his brothers to track down a dangerous and mysterious artifact, Beltine is happy—and honored—to be chosen to help. Their information takes them to an exotic animal rescue facility in the mountains of Idaho. Upon getting there, they discover that some of the animals aren’t animals—they’re shifters trapped in animal form. What really shocks Beltine is that one of the males is his amina—his soul. Except, Beltine is still a couple of decades away from his thousandth birthday. Still, once his amina—Kavan—finally returns to his human form, Beltine finds himself just like any other paranormal. He wants what the Moirai have deemed his. With his time in service to Famine not yet up, as well as trouble still on the horizon, Beltine isn’t certain what his best move is. Will even the help of his horseman be enough to find an answer?
“Beltine, Master Famine is looking for you.”
Turning, Beltine spotted Garnelle. He nodded respectfully at the slightly older demon and replied, “Thank you, Garnelle. Do you know if he’s in his office?”
Garnelle smiled, surprising Beltine. The demon was a decade older than Beltine’s own nine-hundred-seventy-eight years, and he wasn’t known for his warm and fuzzies. In fact, Beltine couldn’t actually remember the last time he’d seen a true, relaxed smile on Garnelle’s face.
“No,” Garnelle replied, amusement lacing his tone. “Famine and his men are relaxing in the bathing chamber.”
Beltine cocked his head, furrowing his brows. “The bathing chamber?”
Knowing the room to which Garnelle referred, Beltine wondered at that. Each Horseman of the Apocalypse ruled their section of the demon realm. Famine had originally designed it in what many would consider a Roman style, with communal cathedral baths. A couple of centuries before, Famine had changed their home to a style more along the line of an Arabic sheik’s palace, but everyone had loved the communal baths so much that, after a little redesign, Famine had kept it.
The corners of his lips twitching, Garnelle told him, “Hank calls it a swimming pool.”
Blinking, Beltine processed that. Master Famine had bonded with three men only a week before. Hank was a sweet and friendly human. His second lover—the vampire, Chissom—had a fun-loving and laid-back attitude with a dash of mischievousness added in. Famine’s third lover—a red fox shifter named Knossis—had a dominant and forceful personality and still kept his position of head enforcer for his skulk.
“Hank thinks it’s a swimming pool, and Master Famine didn’t explain that the demons use it to…bathe?” Beltine felt his way around that question slowly and realized the answer as soon as he finished it. “Because Master didn’t want to embarrass his lover.”
Garnelle nodded once. “Probably.” With a smirk and a wink, he advised, “Everyone is being advised to keep a bathing suit handy…just in case.”
Unable to help himself, Beltine groaned. “But bathing naked is the point.”
Shrugging, Garnelle pointed out, “You’re only a couple of decades away from finding an amina. Once that happens, you won’t want him or her to be naked in front of another.” Garnelle’s expression sobered. “And that person won’t want your willie dangling for all to see, so it can’t hurt for you to get used to not being naked in front of others.”
Beltine recognized the wisdom in that and nodded. “You, too.” Resting his hands on his hips, he clarified, “You’re a decade older than me, aren’t you?”
“I am.” Garnelle’s expression turned wistful. “Another twelve years.” Sobering, he cleared his throat. “Not that I’m counting down or anything.”
Scoffing, Beltine muttered, “Of course not. None of us are.” Then he started toward the door. “Thank you for the heads up.”
Garnelle replied, “You’re welcome,” before exiting the library in another direction.
Beltine strode swiftly through the massive palace. While the library was on the main floor, it was on the opposite side as the bathing chambers. That was to keep the possibility of moisture damage away from the books.
He made his way to the room that housed half a dozen pools, each having a different temperature. They ranged from cool and inviting, good for swimming, to hot and soothing, excellent to help sore muscles. He’d enjoyed them all many times over his long life.
Spotting Chissom exit a corridor to the left and turn in the same direction, Beltine took in his attire. The vampire was dressed in a pair of board shorts and flip-flops. He carried a towel draped over his shoulder.
Making a split decision, Beltine called to Chissom as he picked up his pace.
The vampire paused, half-turning. His kind hazel eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled at Beltine. “Hey, man.” Cocking his head, he asked, “Uh, sorry. There’s a lot of you to remember. Who are you again?”
Beltine wasn’t offended. After all, Famine had over two hundred demons under his command. There were only a few generals—those demons who’d served a thousand years and had been blessed by the gods with their amina—their soul. The rest of Famine’s demons were of various ages, from a few years old to almost a thousand. As Chissom had said, there were definitely a lot of them.
“I’m Beltine,” he told Chissom. “And I totally understand.” Falling into step beside the vampire, he hesitated a second before saying, “I heard that Hank thinks the bathing chamber is a swimming pool.”
“Bathing chamber,” Chissom repeated, his eyes narrowing just a little. Just as quickly, they widened. “Oh, bathing chamber. Shit!”
Holding up his hands, palms out, Beltine hurried to add, “We’ve all been warned to have shorts handy, but I didn’t want Hank to find out his mistake in some…unkind way.”
Chissom nodded slowly, his expression one of thoughtfulness. “So you decided to come to me.”
Beltine admitted, “I spotted you on your way there, and the idea just sort of…popped into my head.” Grimacing, he told him, “If I had to guess, Master Famine would probably order us all not to say a word about it.”
After grunting softly, Chissom mused, “But that leaves it open for someone to say the wrong thing at the wrong time or for Hank to overhear some random comment.” He shook his head. “Then he might jump to a wrong conclusion, like thinking we were lying to him.”
Grimacing, Beltine stated, “I hadn’t even thought of that. I just didn’t want to see him accidentally hurt.”
“I appreciate it, Beltine,” Chissom replied, reaching up and patting his shoulder. “I’ll deal with it.”